Chapter Nine

Working with Impasse

Conflicts sometime appear to lurch from impasse to impasse, and few disputes follow a straightforward path. Even the most skillful conflict interveners are sometimes at a loss for a way to move a conflict process forward in the face of what seems to be the unwillingness of some or all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue. Nothing we do can force someone else to be reasonable, flexible, or wise. Disputants can seem closed-minded, and conflicts can remain stuck in destructive patterns for extended periods. We can think of this as deadlock, impasse, breakdown, or failure, but each of these labels comes with judgments and assumptions about what people ought to do or how they ought to think. These judgments ...

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